WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Water for Elephants, now where do I begin. I want to start by saying I did enjoy this book, Gruen describes and creates a fantastic world of the travelling circus complete with a hierarchical class of circus folk that I for one never realised existed. You just presume they’re all one big happy family living the dream!
The development of the relationship between Jacob and the circus people is beautifully described, growing through the chapters, it is particularly heart warming to see the relationship between him and Walter (Kinko) change and improve as Jacob struggles to find his place between the labouring members of the circus and the performers. His compassion for Camel and loyalty are also touching and it is heartbreaking to find out the new close friends have been red-lighted because of Jacob’s actions.
Whilst I haven’t seen the film version I have seen trailers and so it wasn’t hard for me to guess early on how the relationship between Jacob and Marlena was going to ebb out. The interesting plot twist being the opening text where Gruen describes the death or should that be murder of August. It is clear we are to believe throughout the book that it is Marlena who Jacob sees smash August’s head in, however we are surprised and I must admit on a personal note slightly amused to find out later in the book that the female referred to at the start is not Marlena but Rosie, the elephant. An outcome I didn’t see coming.
Whilst this was an enjoyable read, nothing too taxing, a book I was happy to pick up and read for a tube journey or during lunch at work I didn’t find it gripping and at no point was I fidgeting with the corner ready to turn the page and read on. Nor was I reading two more chapters when I’ve promised my boyfriend I’ll talk to him after finishing this one. There was also one rather large flaw to the book in my mind and that was the interspersed chapters about the story of old Jacob. I understand that the book is his memories, stimulated by the arrival of a circus near his nursing home, however, I felt that the story could have been told straight without the interruptions. If I’m honest I found myself skim reading those chapters completely and utterly uninterested in his fight for independence from the nurses and his arguments with the other members of the nursing home. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they spoiled the book for me but I couldn’t find anything special that they brought to the book.
An easy pleasant read to be picked up and put down at will.